A guide on how to perform pet CPR

As very proactive pet parents, both myself (Jeff Shoket) and my wife Irina understand the importance of educating yourself on knowing how to perform pet CPR. Dogs, like humans, can experience medical emergencies, and being prepared to respond quickly can save their lives. Knowing how to perform pet CPR allows us the knowledge to provide immediate assistance if our dogs experience choking, cardiac arrest, or other emergencies. It gives us peace of mind knowing that we can take action to help our fur baby family members in times of crisis. Moreover, to be trained in how to perform pet CPR demonstrates your commitment to being a responsible pet parent and ensures that you are prepared to handle any situation that may arise with their beloved family members pets.

Important Note: Performing CPR is a lifesaving skill, but it should only be attempted if your pet is unconscious and not breathing. It’s crucial to seek professional help immediately. CPR is a temporary measure to keep blood flowing until you get your pet to veterinary care.

Before you begin:

  • Stay Calm: In a crisis, staying calm is essential for acting effectively. Take a deep breath and focus on helping your pet.
  • Gather Supplies: Ideally, have a pet first-aid kit on hand. It may contain a barrier device for rescue breaths and a CPR chart specific to different pet sizes.
  • Call for Help: While checking your pet’s condition, don’t waste time. Immediately call your veterinarian or emergency animal hospital and explain the situation. Ask for instructions and guidance while you assess your pet.

** Disclaimer:  Neither Jeff nor Irina Shoket are trained veterinary professionals.  This article is for informational purposes only and the information presented is sourced from The American Red Cross, for more information on their pet first aid courses you can visit their site at https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/cpr/performing-cpr/pet-cpr

Basics on how to perform pet CPR

  1. Chest Compressions to get blood flowing to the organs
  2. Rescue Breaths to deliver oxygen to the organs

Before you begin to perform pet CPR


The second step in CPR is obtaining a clear & unobstructed airway.

  1. PULL the tongue out of your pet’s mouth, but be careful to not get bitten.
  2. STRAIGHTEN the neck by moving the head to be in line with the neck.
  4. PERFORM two rescue breaths, by closing the mouth and performing mouth to nose ventilations. IF they continue, then proceed to STEP 3, BREATHING.
  5. If there are no breaths, then look into the mouth.
  6. VISIBLY inspect the mouth and look down the throat for a foreign body. If you see something, reach into the airway and remove it.
  7. IF the airway is still not open, attempt HEIMLICH (shown in following steps).
  8. TURN your pet upside down, with back against your chest.
  9. WITH both arms, give sharp thrusts to the abdomen.
  10. AFTER 5 thrusts, stop and check to see if the object is visible in the airway. If so remove it and give 2 mouth-to-nose rescue breaths. If the breaths do not go in, repeat HEIMLICH.

Essential First Aid: How to Perform Pet CPR

American Red Cross - Pet CPR diagram

American Red Cross – Pet CPR diagram

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation is the most important first aid technique that every pet owner should be comfortable with. Chances are that you will never have to use it, but it will save your pet’s life if a ball is lodged in his airway

There are some very basic steps to performing CPR on your pet:

  1. Check your pet’s responsiveness: Gently shake the pet and call their name. If there is no response, the pet may be unconscious and in need of CPR.
  2. Perform chest compressions: Lay the pet on their side on a flat surface. For small pets, hold them with their back against your chest. Place one hand over the other and compress the chest firmly, but gently, at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute. For larger dogs, place your hands on the widest part of their chest and compress.
  3. Open the airway: After 30 compressions, gently tilt the pet’s head back and lift their chin to open the airway. Check for any obstructions and remove if necessary.
  4. Provide rescue breaths: For small pets, cover their nose and mouth with your mouth and give two quick breaths. For larger dogs, close their mouth and breathe into their nose. Continue with cycles of 30 compressions and 2 breaths until the pet starts breathing on their own or until help arrives.


Check for Breathing and Heartbeat:

  1. Gently shake your pet and see if they react.
  2. Look for signs of breathing, like chest movement or air coming from the nose.
  3. Feel for a heartbeat. For cats and small dogs, you can feel for a pulse on the inside of the thigh where the leg meets the body. For larger dogs, check under their left armpit.
  4. If your pet is not breathing and you cannot feel a heartbeat, proceed to chest compressions.

STEP 2: Chest Compressions

Hand placement: (The main additional point here is WHERE you should be locating your dog or cat’s heart at. It’s ALWAYS behind the left armpit, but the specifics change based on body type where the best place to COMPRESS the heart is.)

  • Cats, small dogs: Lay your pet on it’s right side, place the heel of one hand directly over the pet’s heart (It’s ALWAYS behind the left armpit), followed by your other hand on top.
  • Deep-chested dogs:  Deep-chested dogs: Place the heel of one hand over the widest part of the chest, followed by your other hand on top.
  • Barrel-chested dogs: Lay the dog on its back, place one hand over the widest part of the sternum, and place your other hand on top. Lock your elbows and keep your shoulders directly above your hands.

Compressions: Push hard and fast at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute. Compress the chest by 1/3 to 1/2 its width. Make sure the chest fully recoils between compressions.

Number of compressions: Perform 30 chest compressions.

Pet CPR STEP 3: Breathing

After 30 compressions, gently tilt the pet’s head back and lift their chin to open the airway. Check for any obstructions and remove if necessary. Go back to “YOUR PET’S AIRWAY”.

STEP 4: Give Rescue Breaths:

  1. Gently close your pet’s mouth and extend their neck to open the airway. If the chest does not expand then go back to “YOUR PET’S AIRWAY”.
  2. If you have a barrier device from a pet first-aid kit, use it to cover your pet’s nose and mouth while creating a seal.
  3. In the absence of a barrier device, pinch your pet’s nostrils closed with your thumb and forefinger.
  4. Cover your pet’s nose with your mouth and exhale until you see their chest rise.
  5. Give a second rescue breath, ensuring each breath is short and gentle.
  6. VENTILATE at 8 breaths per minute. 2 BREATHS every 15 seconds.

Continue CPR:

  1. Repeat the cycle of 30 chest compressions and 2 rescue breaths.
  2. Ideally, have someone time the compressions to ensure a rate of 100-120 per minute. The song “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees has a similar rhythm that can help you maintain the pace.
  3. Continue CPR until you feel a heartbeat or your pet starts breathing on its own or you reach a veterinary hospital.

Recheck for Breathing and Heartbeat:

Briefly check for breathing and a heartbeat every 2 minutes.

Get Help:

Do not stop CPR until you reach a veterinary hospital. Even if your pet starts breathing again, veterinary care is crucial to assess the underlying cause of their collapse.

Additional Tips:

  • If you’re unsure about the exact hand placement for your pet, prioritize starting chest compressions immediately. Even imperfect compressions can provide some blood flow until you get help.
  • CPR is physically demanding. If you have someone to help, take turns performing compressions and rescue breaths. Switch roles every two minutes to avoid fatigue.
  • Be gentle with your pet throughout the process. While chest compressions require force, avoid applying excessive pressure that could cause injuries.
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed, ask the veterinarian on the phone for additional guidance or instructions.

After Your Pet Revives:

  • Even if your pet starts breathing again on its own, do not wait to seek veterinary care. They may still be in critical condition and require further evaluation and treatment.
  • Explain the situation to your veterinarian, detailing the events leading to your pet’s collapse and any CPR performed.
  • The veterinarian will run tests to determine the cause of the collapse and recommend appropriate treatment.